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September 29, 2009

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Imbalances hold back health care reform

THE imbalance in the distribution of health care resources has stood in the way of China pushing forward ambitious reforms in the sector, Health Minister Chen Zhu said yesterday.

The country needs to train more doctors and medical staff in grassroots organizations to address the challenges brought about by the shortage of medical professionals, he said.

He did not further elaborate on the challenges.

The government unveiled a three-year health care reform plan in April, saying it would lay a solid foundation for equitable and universal access to essential health care in China by 2020.

Under the 850 billion yuan (US$124.4 billion) plan for 2009 to 2011, the government promised universal access to basic health insurance, the introduction of an essential drug system, improved primary health care facilities, equitable access to basic public health services and pilot reform of state-run hospitals.

It is widely expected to be spent subsidizing basic medical insurance programs, supporting grassroots health facilities and underdeveloped western and rural regions, where medical resources are comparatively scarce compared with that of big cities.

The minister said the concentration of high-quality medical resources in major hospitals and large cities has hampered the government's efforts to promote a nationwide disease prevention strategy and failed to help update disease information in grassroots organizations.


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